Spinning Wylde, an organic cotton-candy shop with more than 50 flavors, has recently taken hold at Keg and Case West Seventh Market. The business came together as a happy accident, and owner Tevy Phann-Smith loves to be able to share the joy that cotton candy brings her.
We chatted with Phann-Smith about how she got into the food business.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I think when I was a kid I wanted to be a writer or an astronaut. I really romanticized writing, I really romanticized flying out of the world.
What was your first food memory? I have a lot of memories of rice always being cooked. The smell of the rice cooker is always really something I’m quite fond of. One of my most prominent food memories when I was a child was of my grandmother. She had one arm — she had lost one in the war — and she would cut vegetables on a cutting board that was on the floor while holding it with her foot. That was always something I would think about a lot.
What was your first job in food? I’ve always worked in the food industry, whether it was serving or bartending. I think my first job was maybe at a Dairy Queen. I had a dog and he was really sick and I had three jobs trying to pay his vet bills.
How did you wind up in the food business for good? It was accidental. I was playing around, creating things for my little niece’s birthday party. It got to be a really expensive birthday party because I was experimenting with a lot with different things. I became a vendor for the Little Mekong Night Market to try to recoup some of that money. The cotton candy flavors were a real hit and we were offered a stall here.
What’s your favorite thing on your menu right now? I really like any of the spicy flavors. I think it adds a little more dimension to the sugar, than just straight sweetener. There’s a Serrano Strawberry, Pineapple Habanero and we have a Chile Cherry. I just put a Mangonada on the menu, a chile lime salt on a spicy mango. We have one that we call the Minnesota Hot that’s actually pretty spicy because it’s straight-up chile-pepper-infused sugar.
What’s the last thing you cooked at home? I haven’t cooked in a very, very long time. My husband cooks. My mom’s been cooking for me and bringing me food at the shop because we’ve been so busy. I had spring rolls this morning that she prepared.
If you had to eat or drink only five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? They would all have rice in it. It would probably be Korean food, Japanese food, Cambodian food, Vietnamese food … it would be all Asian food. It honestly would be the Cambodian dishes and all the food my mom makes. I think that (mom’s cooking) speaks to everyone and is not just culture specific. That’s the thing about cotton candy, too. For a lot of people it’s something that is a part of their childhood memories. It’s a nostalgic treat.
What’s next? We are overwhelmed by how busy things have been. When I worked in the service industry, I always talked about opening a restaurant with Cambodian food, because my mom’s a phenomenal cook. Fingers crossed, I don’t know!
And we actually have two spots at Keg and Case right now. On the side of the cotton candy shop was supposed to be what we called a dry bar, a mocktail bar. We were gonna create really fun drinks that were garnished with cotton candy or paired with cotton candy. But business has been so busy that we haven’t really gotten around to it. Right now it just houses our gingerbread village.
I’m thinking of doing some savory cotton candy. I think it would be really fun to serve people a bowl of soup, maybe a butternut squash with some maple cotton candy. Or a bowl of udon with some mushroom cotton candy for umami flavor. And so yes, I fancy the idea of introducing food here and there paired with the cotton candy. The one thing I love about cotton candy is its whimsical nature. We’re just looking to have fun and share some of that joy with other people. The moment we started our business it’s been really for fun — it’s brought so much joy to people’s lives. And it’s fun crafting new flavors.